My name is Hemmo, and I’m currently 40 years old. I got my first tattoo when I was 18. My psychobilly friend had a tattoo machine made from an old electric shaver. The machine was noisy and heated up so much that in every 15 minutes he had to pause tattooing to prevent his hands from burning. After the tattoo was ready, I showed it to my big brother and told him not to tell father about it – I intended to tell him myself at some point. We went outside to smoke cigarettes, and the moment we spotted our father, my brother glanced at me and announced “Hemmo has gotten a tattoo!”
I can still remember my father’s reaction. I was waiting to get a twenty-minute-long preach about tattoos and their evilness. But instead, he just looked at my arm and said: “Oh, you poor kid, couldn’t you find anything else to spend your money on?” In those days, tattoos were still associated with thugs, sailors and prisoners. The funny thing is, my mum has never said anything negative about my tattoos, but she has complimented some of them though.
The sad angel is one of my first tattoos. Originally, I saw the idea in a tattoo magazine. It just moved me somehow, although it has no particular meaning behind it.
The satyr is my latest tattoo. It’s already been a few years since I got it.
Hemmo (in English: Dude) is my real name, and people have always made jokes about it. You can turn it into many different nicknames, which didn’t actually make my life any easier when I was a teenager.
The most common joke has been comparing my name to a guy called Hemmo Paskiainen from a Finnish adult humor magazine called Pahkasika. Finally, I decided to tattoo Hemmo Paskiainen on my skin.
After the tattooing, my personal view on name-calling has seemed to change as well. In a way, I’d say that this tattoo has helped me to rise above all the bullying. If people want to call me Hemmo Paskiainen, at least now they can do it for a reason.
I import kilts to Finland, and I usually wear one myself. Often a kilt seems to confuse Finnish people. Especially men keep asking why I’m wearing a skirt. The most surprising thing has been that old ladies seem to appreciate – when they see a tattooed man wearing a kilt, they may smile and give me a thumbs up. It’s pretty mysterious, I must say.
Originally, I became interested in kilts when I was still working at PRKL club in Helsinki and we got kilts as a part of our work clothing. That way I became friends with a guy who imported kilts into Finland. Later the guy got cancer, and a couple of years ago he passed away. Couple of guys and I wanted to carry on his work, so we decided to found an association called Ylämaan kiltti MacHemmot. Now we import kilts and sell them in Finland.
We also wanted to honor the memory of our friend by establishing a calendar. The calendar was made by volunteers on a fast schedule, and we donated the profits to Cancer Foundation of Finland. Last year, we published our second calendar and gave the profits to Girl’s House in Kuopio. Now we are making a third calendar, and this time we’re going to donate for Boy’s House in Oulu.
When I think about it, I notice that my tattoos remind me of many different life events. When I look at them, I remember all kinds of funny coincidences that happened during the time I got them. Both of my legs are tattooed by a Turkish friend of mine.
Originally I met him on a trip to Turkey. On the very first day, I went to talk to him and asked if he could tattoo me. First he said that it would be better to get a tattoo when my trip was nearly over so that I could first sunbathe and swim as much as I wanted. But after I asked him if I looked like a guy who loves sunbathing, he agreed and we decided to book the appointment on the same evening.
I went to his home to get tattooed. It was a very nice experience – I even fell asleep during the tattooing and woke up when the tattoo was ready. My tattooist’s friend gave me a motorbike ride back to my hotel. During the ride, the plastic wrap around my tattoo got detached, and of course a fresh tattoo was bleeding a bit. As the hotel staff saw me jumping off a motorbike, still bleeding, they panicked and started asking if I had been in an accident. I just replied no, no – I was just getting a tattoo!
A dragon tattoo is a classic. Later I got another classic, a tiger tattoo, as the same tattooist came to visit Finland.
Even though I used to hang out with rockers and psychobilly folks especially in my younger days, I have friends from all walks of life. I guess it’s some kind of curse: the more peculiar person someone seems to be, the more interested I get – and then I just have to invade their personal space and get to know them! I have noticed that if there’s nothing else to talk, tattoos will always spark a good conversation.
I got the idea for rune tattoos from a friend who had a rune tattoo on his neck. At that time, Chinese character tattoos were still booming, but I thought to myself that maybe runes would be a more suitable choice for a Nordic guy like me.
I have the words sinful, despair and infidelity tattooed on my right arm. The opposite words are written on my left arm: righteous, hope and loyalty. And of course the fact that I have two Christian words tattooed on my skin in pagan letters is quite contradictory itself.
When people ask me about these runes, I usually come up with different explanations. One day I may say these mean “go to sauna at 7 pm”, and the next day “remember to eat pea soup on Thursdays”. Usually, people seem to be quite satisfied with those explanations, but my cousin really took the trouble to find runes from the internet and translate the real meanings of these tattoos!
I guess that in a way, it’s easier to get tattoos when you’re still young. As you grow older, you suddenly become so busy, and you start telling yourself that you don’t have any time or money to spend on getting tattoos anymore. Right now, I’m trying to save money for a bit longer trip in the autumn, but maybe after that, I could finally go and get some more ink on my skin.